News and Information

Caprivi producers up in arms over maize prices (2004-09-08)
September 10, 2004
By Risco Lumamezi

The union representing maize farmers in the Caprivi has called on government to abandon the maize pool system and allow them to instead supply millers directly.

In terms of the pool system, the government buys maize from farmers at a fixed price and then sells it on to millers.
Pastor Martius Semi, Chief Executive Officer for the Likwama Farmers Union, has appealed to the Namibia Agronomic Board (NAB) to turn down all maize produced by Namib Mills in the Caprivi, in order to allow farmers to sale their maize directly to millers.

The pressure for the system to change follows bumper maize harvests after excellent rains during the growing season, as well as an influx of huge quantities relief aid following the recent floods.
As a result the NAB submitted a report to the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Rural Development recommending that the maize pool be scrapped.

There is currently a very low demand for maize meal in shops due to the large quantities of drought relief handed out after the floods. Farmers and millers are concerned at the effect that the supplying of maize to vulnerable groups in the Caprivi by the World Food Programme (WPF), which has donated 6 000 tons of white maize, and the Emergency Management Unit, is having on them. The provision of this aid – and the effect on the local market - has resulted in Caprivi millers being reluctant to buy in stock from local farmers.
This could not have come at a worse time for farmers in the South and Western Caprivi, who this year have reaped a bumper harvest compared to previous years.
Farmers are upset, saying priority should be given to the local millers and the Likwama Farmers Union has called on government to stop the maize system in Caprivi to enable farmers to sell their maize to local millers at a reasonable price.
Semi warned that urgent action would need to be taken, as communal farmers do not have adequate space to store their maize for the next six months, when they expect the situation to change.
Food aid to flood victims would also create dependence and, because people were not buying maize, this could have an adverse effect on the local economy, he said. He also urged government to fund “green schemes” that use canals to get water to dry places, like around the Linyanti River, which has dried up.
“Giving food to hungry people is not a solution, as continual feeding will not develop Africa,” said Semi. “We are not against food aid, but we don’t know where it is taking us and government should help develop communal farmers.”
Currently all farmers who sell their maize to the pool receive a first payment of about
N$1 250 - 75 percent of the Caprivi floor price – which the union says is far too low.
“The final payment (agterskot) will be worked out when all costs are known, including how much maize had to be transported to Windhoek,” the NAB said in a statement issued in June this year. “In the worst case scenario farmers will get a minimal final payment – in the best case a substantial one.”
A team representing Caprivi farmers met in Windhoek recently to press for a government subsidy to help stabilise the price currently being paid for maize sold into the pool. They have also written a letter, dealing with this and other issues to the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Water and Rural Development, Paul Smit, but have not yet received a response.
The Likwama Farmers Co-operative Union has called on government to pay a 100 percent subsidy for some of the costs they must incur, including insurance, storage, contingencies and the transport of half of the current pool stock to Windhoek. They have also called for a 50 percent subsidy for fumigation and of the 8.25 interest cost they must bear.
Meanwhile, some farmers have accused the NAB regional office in Katima Mulilo of submitting “biased reports” to the international community about the flooding in Caprivi, claiming that the board had acted in bad faith.
Clara Mbukusa, the NAB’s office administrator in Caprivi, said the Board was merely a buyer of “last resort”, adding that the current situation is not the first of its kind to happen in Caprivi. The same situation had arisen in 1997, she said.
Local millers Essop Ahmed, of Rings Milling, and Suhail Rhamjee, the manager at Kamunu Wholesalers, confirmed that residents of Katima Mulilo, were not buying maize meal as they were getting it free from the government.
“We could grind meal if the government gives us a tender, but this is not happening because of the importing of WFP maize” said Ahmed, adding the price of maize in Caprivi is very high when compared to Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.
Since the inception of the pool system in Caprivi, millers have been forced to reduce their work force due to the competition with the government pool, which awarded its milling to Namib Mills after a tender process..

Source: Caprivi Vision

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